Paul Pierce

Celtics win over Heat silver lining on dark, cloudy day

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Boston beat the Miami Heat 100-98 and they did it without Rajon Rondo.

It’s a good omen, because the Celtics are going to have to hang on to a playoff spot in the East with more gritty games like this one because Rajon Rondo is out for the season with a torn ACL. Boston did it with a triple-double from Paul Pierce and an appearance by the good Jeff Green. It was enough for a day against the best team in the East and a reason to hope the playoffs are still not out of question.

Rondo’s injury leads to a lot of big-picture questions for the Celtics — is it time to fully blow up the big three era? — but that’s not how the guys in the locker room can look at it. Doc Rivers summed that up after the game, via CSNNE.com.

“Well you can write the obituary, I’m not,” Rivers said.

What he’s going to have to do is find someone to provide the steady offense. And their defense is going to have to keep playing like this.

Make no mistake it was Boston’s defense that won them this game — Miami had an offensive rating of just 90.1 (points per 100 possessions) in the game. Miami shot just 40.6 percent as a team and was 5-of-23 from three. Ray Allen came off the bench to score 21 but was just 7-of-17 shooting, Dwyane Wade had 17 points but needed 20 shots to do it and missed his last seven attempts. Miami had just 19 points on 31.6 percent shooting in the fourth quarter.

Had it not been for another big night from LeBron James — 34 points, 16 rebounds, 7 assists — Boston could have won this game handily. But even James needed 31 shots to get his points and down the stretch Jeff Green did a good job keeping him in check.

Boston’s offense wasn’t a much better than Miami’s but it got enough key plays when it mattered. In the second overtime Miami took a 98-95 lead with 62 seconds to play on a LeBron James three point play (the old-school way). But then Jason Terry hit a driving layup. Boston gets a stop them Pierce hits a 21-foot pull-up jumper to take a 99-98. You knew Miami would go to LeBron but Greed contested, the shot went wide, Pierce got the rebound and was fouled making one of two (100-98). Miami went for the win but Shane Battier’s 3-pointer wasn’t close.

Pierce had a sloppy triple double — 17 points but on 6-of-16 shooting, plus 13 rebounds and 10 assists. Kevin Garnett had 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting.

It was enough. It was a silver lining to provide a little hope on a day that largely seems gloomy for the Celtics.

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

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TORONTO — That. Was. Amazing.

In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.

And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.

The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.

There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)

“I was prepared for four (second round dunks),” LaVine said. “To tell the truth, he came with something that no one else has done. He did two dunks that were just crazy with the mascots, jumping over them. We just kept pushing each other until the last dunk. I’ve got to give it up to my boy Will “The Thrill” Barton. It’s because of him I think I won. Because he said try to go from the free-throw line. I’d never done that before, and I just tried it. So I guess it was a great dunk. I think it was the best one ever.”

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

“If I knew it was going to be like that, I would have prepared better and we would have been here dunking all night, going back 50 after 50 after 50 after 50,” Gordon said. “We would have been here all night. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I was just hoping Zach was going to miss, and it wasn’t going to happen. You could see as my facial expressions when Zach dunks it, it’s like okay, that’s a 50. Like I know we’re going to have to dunk again.”

So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.

Gordon was close to perfect.

Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk

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TORONTO — Aaron Gordon was giving Zach LaVine all he could handle in the Dunk Contest.

He blew the lid off the Air Canada Centre with this dunk in the first round — and it wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. Never seen this before.

This dunk contest was awesome, so much more video to come.

Zach LaVine opens Slam Dunk Contest title defense with spectacular behind-the-back slam (VIDEO)

during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night:

Even better was the reaction, both from Andre Drummond and from LaVine’s Minnesota teammates: